Nations League: ‘I’ve got thick skin’ – Ian Baraclough ready for criticism after NI’s draw
Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough said he has got “thick skin” and is ready to face any criticism that will come his way.
Baraclough’s side disappointed once again as they played out a drab 0-0 Nations League draw against Cyprus in Larnaca, with sections of the travelling 600 Northern Ireland supporters jeering at the full-time whistle.
The hosts missed two great chances to win the match, which followed Thursday night’s 1-0 home defeat by Greece.
“There are always people questioning your position,” Baraclough said.
“People aren’t happy when you win games because you’re not winning them by big enough margins. It comes with the territory. I’ve got thick skin.”
Sunday’s draw with a team ranked 51 places below them in the world rankings means Northern Ireland have still never won a match in the Nations League, having lost nine and drawn three.
It leaves Baraclough, who has been in charge for two years, with just three victories in 18 competitive outings.
He had called for four wins from four before this Nations League quadruple-header, but, with experienced players such as Stuart Dallas, Craig Cathcart and Josh Magennis unavailable, he reiterated his call for patience as he introduces young players to international football.
Shea Charles started in Cyprus three days after an unexpected first appearance off the bench at Windsor Park while Brodie Spencer and Conor McMenamin came on for their debuts.
“I know what it’s like,” Baraclough continued.
“We have to win games of football. We want to win games of football. I know where we are looking to go.
“The bigger picture is having a squad that’s good enough and big enough to go and compete in the Euros. With this group we’re not quite there.
“We’re talking about players that haven’t even played under-21s football, never mind this. We made errors, some of them are basic errors. But you look and see where we’ve come from and where we are.
“From the season’s end we’ve come together, bringing in new players who haven’t even met each other let alone played with each other. We’re asking them, some of them kids, to go and do a man’s job.
“They’re stepping up but they’re not going to be at the top level and it does make it look disjointed. We have to show patience with them. They can’t get down about it and beat themselves up or we’ll get nowhere.”
While not winning the match was a huge blow to Northern Ireland’s hopes of winning their Nations League group, they could have lost the match.
Ali McCann missed a gilt-edged chance for the visitors in the final minutes, but the hosts had two excellent second-half chances themselves through Ioannis Pittas and Pavlos Korrea, while Fanos Katelaris rattled the crossbar on the stroke of half time.
Baraclough, whose side are now away to Kosovo on Thursday night before welcoming Cyprus to Windsor Park next Sunday, felt NI improved in the second half.
“I was pleased with how we came out in the second half,” Baraclough added.
“We took the game more to them. If you look back we definitely gave up too many chances and it could have gone the other way, we could have lost it.
“We also created some really good chances. It was that final ball, the final delivery, and Ali McCann will be having nightmares about that one but he got in the right position.”